In the A.D. 800s, a group of nomads called Magyars migrated from their home near the Ural Mountains westward to present-day Hungary. The Magyars settled in the grasslands along the Danube River where they found grazing land for their sheep and cattle. So began the story of Hungary....
The Hungarian people trace their ancestry back to this group of nomads (traveling people) and still call themselves Magyars. Hungary’s first monarch, King Stephen I, or István, ruled from A.D. 997 until 1038.
He was a strong leader
who converted the Magyars to Christianity and united them under a central
government. It is also said that he personally oversaw the construction of Eger's Castle in the early 11th century.
Much of King Stephen’s work, however, was undone by the weak kings who followed him, making Hungary an easy target for the Mongols who invaded in the mid-1200s. The Mongols left when their leader died.
The reign of King Matthias Corvinus, between 1458 and 1490, was a high point in Hungarian history. King Matthias had a strong government backed by a powerful army. He made Hungary an important cultural center by sponsoring artists and scholars.
This period was also an outstanding time in Hungarian culinary history. Traditional Hungarian ways of cooking were blended with western European techniques. Chefs were as important as wealthy landowners.
In 1526 the Ottomans took over much of Hungary. It was during their campaign to occupy the country in 1552 that the heroic defense of Eger castle took place, one of the few bright points in this period in Hungarian history.
The Ottomans remained in the country until the end of the 1600s, when the Hapsburgs of Austria defeated them.
The Habsburgs ruled Hungary with a heavy hand until an uprising, lasting from 1703 until 1711, forced them to allow the Hungarians more self-rule.
The mid-1800s was a time of revolution in many countries in Europe, and Hungary was no exception. Idealistic young people, led by the poet Sándor Petófi started a revolt on March 15, 1848 and the liberal politician, Lajos Kossuth (1802–1894) became the first governor of Hungary. After some early successes the revolt was put down by the Hapsburgs in 1849.
In 1867, after Austria had lost two wars, Hungary forced the weakened country to form the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. This arrangement made Austria and Hungary two equal countries with one ruler. Although this gave Hungary more control over its own affairs, many Hungarians still wanted complete independence.
The economy was booming but millions of impoverished Hungarians sought refuge in emigration. In 1914 the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which led to the beginning of World War I (1914–1918).
Shortly after Austria-Hungary’s defeat at the end of the war, Hungary declared itself an independent republic. The country shrunk to its present-day size according to the terms of the peace treaty following World War I.
In World War II (1939–1945), Hungary became an ally of Nazi Germany when Adolf Hitler promised to restore some of the territory that Hungary had lost in World War I. But Hitler soon turned on his Hungarian allies and controlled the country until the Germans were defeated in 1945. Whole Hungarian armies and 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished in the war, which left the country in ruins.
Hungary became a Communist country soon after the end of the war. Under the Communist regime, the arts and other cultural traditions were limited along with many freedoms and civil liberties.
In 1956 there was another revolution in Hungary, crushed by Soviet tanks. It was followed by yet another wave of emigration; about 200,000 people left the country within a few weeks.
The fall of the European Communist governments—including Hungary’s—has brought many changes. Hungary became an independent republic again in 1989. Hungary joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and has become a member of the European Union.
Hungary's status as a liberal democracy and member of the European Union has been questioned by the increasingly authoritarian actions of populist right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Orban has concentrated an unprecedented amount of power in his hands while alarming other EU leaders with his brand of nationalist populism.
In 2018 his party, Fidesz, won a third term after his anti-immigration campaign secured a large majority, granting him two-thirds of the seats. Such a majority allows him to alter the Hungarian Constitution at will which only strengthens his power.
Hungarian history is being rewritten by this man.....